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A single visa SAARC – The old Silk Route reinvented

My issue is about the visa and how it can help to slow climate change.
There are more people, who travel within the SAARC countries, as a part of several kinds of illegal trafficking and migration than the number of visas issued.

We have to talk about a single SAARC visa for legal passport holders of SAARC countries, under a single SAARC online visa processing system. The entry should be available from any border, making SAARC a single identity.

The Golden Age for the SAARC region was during the times of the Silk Route, not only the region was prosperous economically, but also a pathway for exchange of cultures, a period when Buddhism was at the best of its times, bringing oneness in the region. Thousands of pilgrims of several religious beliefs moved freely in the region. Even today places of religious interest are spread throughout the SAARC countries, but alas only a few can practically do their pilgrimage in present times, where places are across the borders.

A place like Bhutan, which shares the longest border with India, an Indian tourist has to stand in a queue with people, who are going to work in Bhutan from India, for a permit to visit and spend a holiday in India’s most friendly neighbouring country. Consider Bangladesh, with a long common border with India, the people at the borders have to apply through long queues at their respective embassies or consulate offices to visit places of tourist interest or pilgrimage. This is very unfortunate in this age of Internet.

SAARC countries neither have any similarity in their visa policy, nor is there the concept of a single SAARC visa with multiple entry facilities, considering the geography of the SAARC countries. This not only makes travel for a visitor easy but also saves on travel where ‘every road does not come to an end, but continues across borders’. Again the visa policy here may save a lot of carbon footprint on travel.

The most important issue is nature; the best of the natural resources are present along the borders of the SAARC countries.
When the Silk Route was in operation and border trade could be done freely, the pressure on natural resources was negligible.

Today, because of creation of unfriendly borders, there is a vast difference in the pace of development on both sides of the borders and families and communities have been cut off, putting an end to any economical or cultural activities. All the exchange is mostly among the capitals, which are usually far from the border. This has put an end to the livelihood of the people living along borders, hence increasing their dependency on the local natural resources and the engagement of the youth in illegal activities to channelize their energy.

This unbroken nature across borders can only be protected by empowering our youth with conservation and tourism activities. Most of the youth, who have some vision to lead a decent life, migrate to the cities, leaving the villages with almost no intellectual resource.
Responsible tourism brings in appreciation for local nature and culture, and any cross-border initiative could create corridors of peace and conservation.

This article has been provided by Raj Basu, Secretary General, Indo-
Bhutan Friendship Association, Siliguri. The article was original published in the magazine ‘Kuensel’ from April 28th 2010, which can be downloaded here: Kuensel.

The article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cooperation and network, Development, India, Performance and management, Policy.


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